Good day, Browns fans.
Lots of Browns fans are out on the ledge after an injury-filled training camp so far. A less than stellar performance in the first preseason game didnt help. Perhaps the analysis below will talk you in; perhaps it will make you jump. Read on and decide for yourself!
Last year, the offense struggled and never really found itself. Granted, there were injuries and a change to a rookie quarterback, but the issues go deeper than that. It looks like the offense is picking up where it left off, which is not necessarily a good thing.
Much has been made of the Browns problems at quarterback. While I like many of the intangibles Charlie Frye brings to the game, last seasons performance leaves fans wondering if Frye can be a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. The answer wont be found in this game. Frye did OK, but either by design perhaps due to offensive line problems, or perhaps by his own decision making process, Frye threw just one ball over 10 yards, and that was on the run and fell incomplete (not to mention the receiver had gone out of bounds and was inelligible). His two drives did not get the Browns on the scoreboard, though penalties killed the second drive at its inception. I cant grade Frye much either way based on this game.
The number 2 and 3 men had issues with protection, but that being said, I thought neither Ken Dorsey nor Derek Anderson played well. Between the two of them, Id have to give Anderson the nod. Dorsey looks like a rehash of Trent Dilfer, missing open receivers and generally throwing off target. His best play was a short dump pass that Steve Heiden turned into a long play. Dorsey is not the answer at backup. Anderson shows promise, but he is a project. Lang Campbell did surprisingly well at garbage time. He led the Browns to their only points of the evening. He did have an interception off a deflection that should have been caught by the receiver. Remember, though, that Campbell was playing against guys who will likely not be on an NFL roster come September.
The running back battle did not get a lot clearer in this game. Reuben Droughns looked solid in limited carries. William Green did not do well, and the Browns were clearly trying to run him wide. Jim Brown has been coaching him on finding the hole. Green didnt find many. I thought Lee Suggs did better in his chances. I love Jerome Harrison, who showed quickness. He scored the only touchdown of the night. Jason Wright is still a long shot, but he didnt hurt his chances.
We know Dennis Northcutt and Joe Jurevicius will make the team. Beyond that, I though Josh Cribbs helped himself. Frisman Jackson had a holding penalty that killed a drive. I see Cribbs overtaking Jackson. Travis Wilson had a very nice catch on a deep throw late in the game. Id like to see him get a couple of chances with the second team. Brandon Rideau is playing himself off the team. Last years camp darling dropped a pass that was right to him. Kendrick Mosley and Carlton Brewster also got chances, but neither is likely to stick. Brewster was being covered successfully by the ball boy in practice.
While Kellen Winslow only had two short catches, it was good to see him back on the field. He held his own blocking. Steve Heiden will be a valuable player as the second tight end and had the one nice catch and run mentioned above. Paul Irons had such a good camp last year, but he looks overmatched this year.
The offensive line is a mess. While it did not have a great game, I watched every play with the starters isolating on each player. Emergency starter Alonzo Ephraim did a solid job. Hes no LeCharles Bentley, but he did OK. Nat Dorsey, playing at right tackle with the starters had a mixed game. At times he did a solid job, but on other plays, he would get shoved around or beaten on the rush. The line was having trouble with the outside rush. New left tackle Kevin Shaffer was on the ground too much. Dorsey and Shaffer were both diving at rushers consistently, so I can only assume they are being coached to do so. None of the backups impressed me in particular. Kirk Chambers is not ready for prime time, in my opinion.
Overall, the first and second defensive units looked very solid. They will clearly be the strength of the team. There were lapses, but these were often the fault of an individual. I will say that the Eagles were killing the Browns with dump passes in the flat, and that the defense never really did adjust to it.
With Willie McGinest given the night off and Chaun Thompson injured, the Browns got a good chance to look at their young linebackers. There are problems, but there is plenty to be encouraged about. Kamerion Wimbley had a very nice first game. He disrupted a play at the goal line that forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal after being inches away. He also showed nice speed and tracked down running plays from behind. David McMillan also had a nice night, including two sacks. He looks vastly improved over last year and could be a contributor. DQwell Jackson also had a pretty good game, though he was out of position once or twice. Justin Kurpekis also had a nice play, but one wonders if he has a chance to stick.
The defensive line did a much better job against the run. Ted Washington is a force in the middle, and backups Ethan Kelley and Nick Eason also played well. Rookie Babatunde Oshinowo also had a sack. Orpheus Roye had a solid but quiet stint. Simon Fraser saw considerable playing time. Considering the goal of the 3-4 defense, though, the line was not making plays, but allowing the linebackers to do so. Overall, the pass rush was very weak, similar to last season, and some of the problem lies on the line.
Leigh Bodden and Gary Baxter were fine, but Pete Hunter, getting extended playing time because Daylon McCutcheon is out and Baxter left the game early, got toasted twice. Adding this to observations Ive made at camp and the earlier scrimmage at the stadium, Hunter is a liability. Daven Holly shows some hustle, but he was beaten, too. Brodney Pool made a great saving tackle at the goal line that prevented four points as it turned out. Sean Jones didnt do much of note. Mark it down, Justin Hamilton will make this team. The kid is a hitter and I like his style. He made several plays.
Phil Dawsons one kickoff went in the end zone. He usually does that early. Dave Zastudil kicked the ball for good distance, but twice failed to keep the ball out of the end zone. On the other hand, his next kick was nice and high and downed at the one. Zastudil has nothing to worry about from Kyle Basler. His punts were Richardson-like. Not much to talk about in the return game, but some of the young guys looked great as gunners. Jereme Perry downed the punt at the one.
I thought giving McGinest the night off was a good move. It allowed the staff to get a good look at the young linebackers and what I saw was very encouraging.
Maurice Carthon will continue to come under fire as long as the offense continues to struggle. This year, with the talent at the skill positions, it will be hard to excuse. On the other hand, with the offensive line a patchwork, it is going to disrupt everything.
Hopefully we will get a better look at the team Friday against the Lions.
The season is short, bark hard!